I was going to write something else today (ha ha, sewing related…), but events on UK media (social and otherwise) this weekend have made me so cross that I’m going to write a rant. (A measured one, but still a rant.) Even a cuddle with my lovely pooches (above) couldn’t restore my equilibrium.
“The worst kind of wimmins fiction” – that’s what I (and my fellow M&B authors) write, according to Jeanette Winterson, who burned her own books this weekend to show her displeasure at being compared to it.
Now. Firstly, she would’ve been consulted by her publisher and signed off the blurb and cover. Surely that was the time to say ‘no, I’m not happy’, not when they were printed? (This is what makes me think it was a badly thought-out publicity stunt, rather than the tantrum she later claimed it was. That, and the fact she sent a photograph to the media. If you have a tantrum about something, do you really send evidence to a newspaper?)
Secondly, there’s the burning of books. That always makes me think of Bebelplatz and also Fahrenheit 451. It’s really not OK.
Thirdly, there’s that dismissive swipe at a whole genre (one mainly written by women) AND by extension to its readers. And that is what really, really made my blood boil. Nobody has the right to sneer at other people’s choice of reading.
And just what is so wrong with romantic fiction with a happy ending?
I’ve had letters from readers who’ve told me that whenever they’ve had a really bad day, they reach for one of my books because they know it’s going to make them feel that the world is a better place. I’m very proud to have helped someone through a rough time. And, as a reader, I’ve done the same. When my dad had dementia (and visits were very, very hard emotionally) the thing that got me through it were books. Whenever life has been tough, I’ve lost myself in a book (often romance, precisely because of the happy ending) for long enough to let me cope again.
Making the world feel a better place: I happen to think that’s something to be celebrated, not sneered at.
So I want to do a shout-out to my M&B author friends. We include issues that women deal with on a daily basis – from divorce to infertility to miscarriage to bereavement to abuse, to being part of the sandwich generation caring for teenagers and elderly parents, and more. Our characters show that it’s possible to move on from the tough stuff to a happier place. That you can learn to trust again, to try again, to overcome the past and become who you want to be. That love will get you through. And if that message helps just ONE person… then it’s done something worthwhile.
I’m proud to write books like this, and to write them with other authors who do the same thing. And it’s inclusive. It doesn’t matter how old we are, what our skin colour is, what our nationality is, whether we’re gay or straight or somewhere else on that continuum. We’re all about love.
And that definitely deserves to be celebrated.
Kate’s latest duet – about two doctor brothers and a kidney transplant – is available in August, and can be preordered now.